Over-the-air (OTA) software updates for vehicles are the future, and they allow vehicles to keep getting better over time.
But sometimes they get far worse—even inoperable, as an update pushed out to Rivian’s R1T and R1S, effectively introducing code that crippled normal use of the vehicle.
Earlier this week its software update 2023.42.0 essentially “bricked” the EVs’ infotainment system and preventing a number of functions.
The vehicles were still fundamentally drivable, albeit with asterisks. After the update, the infotainment system on affected vehicles was completely blank/dark, with some information in the gauge cluster also affected.
2023 Rivian R1S
Rivian noted to Green Car Reports that it has compartmentalized safety-critical systems, an approach that allowed affected vehicles to keep operating.
“In most cases, the rest of the vehicle systems and the mobile app will remain functional,” explained Wassym Bensaid, Rivian’s senior VP of software development.
Rivian emailed customers on Tuesday night with next steps, and Wednesday it released its solution that fixes the issue remotely.
According to Rivian, it prepared an over-the-air remedy for deployment in just 36 hours. As of Wednesday, customers affected by the issue should be able, via the Rivian app on their smartphone, to start the install of software that rolls back the problem code. Those not using the Rivian app can contact the Rivian Support Center and initiate the install remotely.
All said, the problematic code, part of an incorrect software build, affected around 3% of customers. The number was limited because within 90 minutes Rivian identified the issue and halted the software’s rollout.
2023 Rivian R1S
The incident serves as a potential lesson for the auto industry as it becomes increasingly focused on over-the-air updates and the potential for making over-the-air feature upgrades a revenue-driver. Rivian has been aggressive with the latitude afforded by software. Last December it added an enhanced cold-weather toolkit, including cabin preconditioning, a snow mode, and smarter power management. Then more recently it rolled out an update for the R1T and R1S that improved these trucks’ ride and handling attributes and, in a different update, a “reimagined towing experience” including all-terrain towing.
On Reddit, the software chief had earlier in the week posted on the issue, blaming a “fat finger where the wrong build with the wrong security certificates was sent out.”
2022 Rivian R1T
“From here, we’re deeply evaluating our process and quality checks to prevent this from happening again,” said Bensaid.
Rivian acknowledged that the issue might need physical repair in some cases.
Customers still affected by the issue are encouraged to reach out to Rivian’s service team at 855-748-4265.